More and more lately, I’m seeing you guys doing-it-yourselves within your respective music scene(s), and it makes my heart happy. You’re feeling and learning your way around and recording your own records, booking your own tours, managing yourselves. Some of you have branched out to opening your own studios and recording your friends, while some of you have gone the booking route. It’s exciting to see everyone coming together and helping each other and building such a strong, independent community.
In the land of DIY, it seems that anything goes—but it is very important to understand that not everything always works. It’s a lot of trial and error and sometimes fuckin’ up but even when you’re not getting the results you want, you still ought to be really proud of the effort you’ve put in—and that may be the biggest lesson of them all. It was for me. Even when I was down and frustrated over my work, I could look back over the progress to my previous work and say, “Shit, I’m okay, I’m doing okay.”
But I’ve still got a whole helluva lot to learn, so I’ve reached out for some help this month from someone who knows plenty about DIY and producing genuine, honest, beautiful work.
Adam Gnade’s work is released as a series of books and records that share characters and continue each other’s plotlines in an attempt to document a personal history of America. He lives and works on a farm in the rural Midwest and has recorded his self-described “speaking-songs” with members of Modest Mouse, Pet Moon and Gang Of Four, to only name a very few. My personal favorite of his books—currently the only nonfiction work, and the one that is helped not only myself greatly, but countless others—is his self-help book The Do-It-Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad. I’d recommend it to anyone doubting their life as it relates to the fabled grand scheme of things, or their place in the world. Or even anyone who’s just feeling a little bit sad these days. To give you an idea of just how helpful and important this book is, it’s already sold out of 11 printings. I was very excited to be granted the opportunity to work with Adam, and he’s written up for us a list of his top five DIY tips as it relates to music, specifically. So here they are:
DIY Guide: Adam Gnade’s Five Tips For Bands And Solo Artists That Might Make Your Life/Songs/Records/Tours Better Or More Worthwhile Or Even Honorable
1) Write better songs. Everything you release should be better than the last. Try to be as good as your heroes. Ask yourself, “What would (so and so person or band you look up to) do in this situation?” You might not pull it off. Most people won’t. Who cares? There are few things more respectable, noble, and becoming than honest effort toward lofty goals. Struggle and know you’re working toward something substantial.
2) A good thing to tell yourself at the end of the day (if it’s true): “I did this on my own terms without hurting, degrading, or compromising anyone.” Don’t take advantage of people for the sake of your “career.” People are worth more than records sold or downloads or a great tour.
3) Want to write good lyrics? Don’t stop looking for the answers you need, the answers that have nothing to do with typical song material but have everything to do with life and death and whatever the fuck else we’re doing on this often-bullshitty planet. Try to answer the questions that keep you up at night and make you sick in the gut thinking about. Bust your ass until you “know” what you feel you need to know. Even if it takes your whole life. Only a few people might “get” your lyrics but those who do will really get them. They’ll believe in them and they’ll give their heart to them for life. That’s worth more than 10,000 Pitchfork readers who love your band this week then forget you when something newer comes along.
4) Destroy all fatalistic thought.
5) In the end, if you’re doing things for the right reasons (and if you give it your best) then you’ve done well. Music (or any art) made honestly and with pure intentions doesn’t need to be criticized or considered a part of an “industry.” It’s neither good or bad; it’s a reflection of who you are, and criticizing that or compartmentalizing it or basing its worth on sales or popularity would be like doing the same for the way you smile or the conversations you have with someone you love. If you’re doing it for the right reasons (and know this: most people aren’t) then you’ve already won.
Adam has released two EPs in the past year (AMERICANS on Blessing Force and GreaterMythology Blues on Punch Drunk Press) and is currently working on a sequel to Big Motherfuckin’ Sad which I seriously cannot wait to get my hands on and read every day for a month and a half like I did with the first. I can’t thank him enough for taking the time out of his self-imposed writing schedule to contribute to MxC!
And as for me, I am still here wanting to hear your thoughts, opinions, and advice. Still wanting to answer your questions, still wanting to discuss things of great import. Get in touch with me at facebook.com/medioxcore.